Monday, February 28, 2011


I have to have a baby girl on March 5th.  Not this year’s March 5th…and probably not next year’s March 5th…but definitely a March 5th in the future.  (Considering how slowly I’m moving with the online dating thing, that future might be a long, long time away!)  I know what you’re thinking.  Huh?  Here’s the scoop – my mother’s mother was born February 24th, my mother was born on February 27th, and I was born on March 2nd.  If you’re good at math (and not counting February 29th because, really, whoever does?) you’ll notice the pattern – three days separates each birthday.  This, aside from our annual trek to the Poconos to chop down our Christmas tree, is about the only family tradition that we have so I’d really like to keep it going.  So, that’s why I have to give birth to a daughter on March 5th (preferably, it should be the youngest daughter but I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself.) 
I like having my birthday three days after my mom’s…I’m like the greatest birthday present that she ever got!  But, I’m not so sure she likes it.  Especially, when I have a tendency to leap out of bed on her birthday and shout - It’s your birthday, do you know what that means?  Three days until my birthday!  I can’t help it that her birthday happens to be the beginning of my birthday month, give or take a day!  My mom always lets me have those days though because that’s who she is, generous and kind-hearted.  But this year marked her 65th birthday so we made it extra special – there was a surprise party and a surprise gift and a surprise cake.  And it was all just for her.  Because she deserves her own birthday celebration every once in a while.
My mom is my best friend (or my bff as my brother likes to tease me.)  She’s probably the single-most influential person in my life, which isn’t to say that I always listen to her!  She tells me what she thinks (never what I want to hear), watches as I figure it out, and never rubs it in when I  tell her that she was right (well, except this past Thanksgiving when I swore there were no giblets in the turkey that I prepped…she found them after the turkey came out of the oven.)
If there was one word that I would use to describe her, it would be resilient.  She’s gone through a lot in her life and she always manages to get through it without feeling sorry for herself or asking why me?  I wish I could say that I followed the example that she set for me.  I didn’t.  But then, I’m not my mom and we all have to find our own way.  And yet, I know she’s there for me every step of the way…and that’s all I really need.
If I actually manage to carry on the tradition and I do give birth to a little girl on March 5th,  I know that  my mom will be there with me…and that’s the best birthday present that I could ever hope for.
Happy Birthday Mom! 
Technically, this is a day late…so, you know what that means?  My birthday’s two days away!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tasty Pudding Award!

This Food Friday post is long overdue, mostly because my mom was visiting this weekend (we went to see "Jersey Boys" was good, but it was no "Wicked") so I didn’t get a chance to write anything but also because, well, there isn’t that much to say about rice pudding.  That’s right - the new food of last week was rice pudding or rizogalo as the Greeks call it. 
It's not even photogenic!
My pals Trix, Richmond, Lonestar, and I took advantage of the spring-like temps on Friday and went to one of our favorite lunch places.  I got my usual - steak and cheese, which is similar in spirit to a cheesesteak but not really authentic enough for me to call it an actual cheesesteak.  But it’ll do.  Especially since there’s not a Jersey Mike’s close to my office.  In addition to my steak and cheese, I ordered the rice pudding for dessert.  This is actually pretty significant – this is the first dessert ever for Food Friday!  So, let’s give rice pudding some love for that distinction alone!  Woo-hoo, go rice pudding!
It was pudding-y and rice-y.  And there was cinnamon on top.  I ate two spoonfuls and then sealed it up to "save for later."  It’s still sitting in my fridge.  I think rice pudding might also be the first thing on a Food Friday that I can categorically state, I will never eat again.  I’m sticking to my usual chocolate pudding from JELL-O.
As an added bonus, my mom and I went out to dinner with my friends/neighbors Semper Fi and Scruffy (formerly known as Scrapper) and I tried some cream of crab soup that was pretty delicious.  So Food Friday was 1 for 2…hey, I’m not gonna like everything I try!  But the important thing is that I keep putting food in my mouth and chewing!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Fairy GodBrother

I can’t tell my story without telling you about my family…without them I wouldn’t be as semi-adjusted as I am.  Since they’ll be showing up eventually, I’d like to make some introductions.  First up – Brother.    
TopChef’s oldest daughter recently turned five and became a member of the Tooth Fairy Network.  Being the creative mom that she is, she made a magical event of it…there were purple balloons, a special Tooth Fairy pillow, and I think a certificate from the Tooth Fairy herself!  As TopChef detailed the plans with the rest of us, I remembered another little girl who believed in magic and fairies because her big brother made it so. 
He wanted a little brother.  I wanted a big sister.  We didn’t have any choice in the matter and so we ended up with each other.  Brother is brilliant, witty, artistic, bossy, moody, and a perfectionist.  He is also one of the most complicated people that I know.  He believes everyone should follow the rules, his rules.  Did I mention that he’s bossy?  Growing up in our mostly kidless neighborhood, we had each other.  He led the way and I usually followed….or was dragged kicking and screaming.  I was forced to participate in the Summer Olympic games that he organized (complete with cardboard medals that he spray painted gold, silver, and bronze…there were only two of us so I never understood who got the bronze).  My Barbies and his Lego people lived side by side, more harmoniously than we did.  Brother was under the impression for much of our childhood that my room was his room.  I didn’t necessarily agree and that led to some epic battles.  I don’t think our mother ever made it through a phone call without having to referee a fight between the two of us.  But when we weren’t fighting, we were getting along…riding bikes “down the Shore”* together, sneaking out to dinner (Bonanza! Ponderosa!) with our mom, drinking A-Treat soda that our dad brought home for us, tormenting our baby-sitters.    
Best of all, my big brother made me believe in magic.  When I was nine or ten, towards the end of a long car ride, I began to spin a tale about the fairies who came to visit me at night.  I generally lived in my imagination - I’m a Pisces, remember - and I had loads of imaginary friends in my imaginary world.  I used to go on imaginary road-trips, sitting on the steps outside my bedroom “driving” in my imaginary station wagon (I had lots of imaginary kids) to imaginary destinations.  So, imaginary fairies weren’t out of the ordinary for me.  But then, something extraordinary happened.  Sometime between the time we arrived home from our trip and when I went up to my room, the fairies left a note for me on my window!  I was blown away.  (Of course, this gave me hope that if my imagined fairies could become real, my imagined bedroom furnished with snazzy IKEA bunk beds would become reality too.  Sadly, I’m still waiting for the bunk beds.)

The Last Gift
Faded proof that there are fairies!
My mother swore that she didn’t know anything about it.  I probably knew, deep down…the fairies’ handwriting was remarkably similar to Brother’s…but I wanted to believe that there was a world filled with fairies and magic.  They would come every so often and I would find notes or little presents on the ledge of my bedroom window.  Eventually they stopped coming…Brother probably got bored or maybe I did.  The last thing that was left for me was a book and a note.  The book's copyright is dated 1992…so I was at least 13.  Brother would have been 16, an angry teenager who, depending on the day, left our house and our family in turmoil.  But inside that angry teenager, who was dealing with his own personal struggles and adolescent angst, was still a boy who wanted his little sister to believe in magic.
The cardboard medals of our Summer Olympic games were thrown away long ago, my Barbies and his Legos are packed away side by side in our parents’ basement, and our old bedrooms have been converted into a guest room (his) and a storage room (mine).  He still drives me crazy, our fights are waged long distance over the phone (I’m the queen of the hang-up, he’s the king of calling back and calling back and calling back), he’s no longer that angry teenager, and he’s still bossy.  We’re both in our thirties now, long past the acceptable age of believing in fairies and magic.  But there’s a part of me that still believes…because my big brother made it so.    
*The Shore is what lesser informed people refer to as the beach.  If you live in PA or NJ, chances are you went “down the shore” during the summer.  And if you happened to get ice cream while you were down the shore, you got jimmies on top…not sprinkles, never sprinkles. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

South of the Border

You know Food Friday’s gonna be interesting when the first question one of the lunch bunch asked was about the restaurant’s zoning.  We were definitely not at your neighborhood Applebee’s. 
It was an exciting day because we had a new pal, The Fedora, in on the fun.  The Fedora is a dapper dresser and apparently a bit of a foodie…he seems to know every restaurant within twenty miles of our office, even the greasy spoons!  So on Friday, The Fedora, TopChef, Lugnut, and I ended up at La Fondita, a Mexican restaurant smack dab in the middle of a residential street…thus the question regarding zoning. 

Since I was busy taking Latin in high school, I couldn’t read the menu so I was thankful for the colorful pictures of each item.  I wanted to steer clear of the typical meat and chicken dishes so I chose chilaquiles verdes.  TopChef explained what they were but all I can really remember is that they were tortilla triangles served in a green sauce (mole?) with two poached eggs on top.  Does anyone else find it interesting that I keep eating bread and eggs?  Maybe next I’ll have a breaded egg. 
My first feat was to eat the eggs…I’ve never had an egg that wasn’t scrambled, hard boiled, or deviled.  (We’re not counting the quiche disaster.)  As I cut them, the yolk spilled out and I had a moment of internal ewwing.  But I sucked it up, put it in my mouth, and chewed.  Then I dove into the chilaquiles (which I have been practicing saying ever since!)  I really liked it but it was really, really spicy.  Thank goodness I had water…mine and Lugnut’s!  I kinda thought TopChef thought I was wimping out a bit because I didn’t eat a whole lot of it so I was glad when she tasted it and thought it was spicy too.  Overall, if the sauce were milder, I think I would definitely order it again. 
This lunch definitely proves that hole in the wall places serve really great food.  Now, I can’t wait to go the greasy spoon!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

1 in 10,000

I had tons of love and support while I was growing up and, generally, I was pretty much accepted.  I wasn’t treated any differently from the other kids in my family or my school.  I was just Denise.  I wasn’t different.  

When I was in school, kids called me Cabbage Patch face (I still don't get it).  
But I wasn’t different. 
One time, I was looking at old family pictures with my cousin and her two daughters.  When we came across a picture of me as a little girl my cousin’s younger daughter exclaimed – what was wrong with your face? 
But I wasn’t different. 
A few years ago, another cousin was on the cusp of starting his own family.  I happened to be in earshot when he asked my mom - what exactly is Denise’s syndrome?  
But I wasn’t different. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
But I was.
I still am. 
And so are you.  And so is the guy waiting for mass transit.  And the lady down the street. 
We’re all different in our own way.  Does this make me feel better?  Honestly, not all the time.  But I don’t feel as different anymore.  And that's a big step in the right direction. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Let's Face Facts

Lest you think this blog is all fluff and falafel, it’s time to deal with the serious stuff.  And you probably thought that was when I admitted to being a former bed wetter who can’t smell and is frightened of fax machines!  Ha!
This blog is about being open about who I am and why I am the way I am.  And I can’t do that without telling you about Treacher Collins Syndrome (TCS).  (Disclaimers - this isn’t PubMed and my medical info is probably as accurate as an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.  If you happen to stumble across this blog and 1) have TCS or 2) have a family member/friend with TCS who needs specific answers, email me and I'll put you in touch with people who know more than me.  And to my fellow TCSers, we’re all as different as our decisions to have a jaw distraction versus a traditional jaw surgery or to go to surgeons in New York versus Norfolk, you might disagree with me or be offended by what I say…but this is my story of living my life with TCS…it wasn’t always the best way, but it was my way.  And it’s my blog, so I can write whatever I want.)       
You can go to the font of all knowledge to find out about TCS and read about underdeveloped mandibular bones, micrognathia, zygomas, ear anomalies, colobomas, and my favorite, preauricular hair displacement.  But that’s a lot of big words so here’s how it relates to me.  I was born with a small jaw, a recessed chin, no cheekbones, a “notch” at the corner of my right eye with a weird little clump of eyelashes, small ears, and preauricular hair displacement.  This is a picture of me taken right after I was born.  The small ears tipped off my parents that I wasn’t your average baby.  I also look really annoyed about something...just another day at the office, I suppose.
In addition, I have a conductive hearing loss that requires me to wear a hearing aid.  I've worn a hearing aid since I was three months I haven't missed out on too much.  My inability to smell, surprisingly, has nothing to do with TCS.  My case of TCS is considered moderate, my brother has a mild expression, and some of my friends have more severe expressions of it.  It does not affect overall health, intellect, or physical capacity.  So, when I do something stupid, it’s because I don’t have any common sense…not because I wasn't born with my zygomas.       
So, how’d I end up with this?  We’re not really sure.  It’s either a genetic or spontaneous mutation.  Aside from my brother, nobody else in my large family manifests signs of the syndrome.  When I was little, my parents were advised that we were a rare case of two spontaneous mutations occurring in one family.  I’m surprised that my parents weren’t buying lottery tickets every night because, really, what are the chances?  However, recent genetic discoveries are poking holes in that advice leading us to believe that we’re not spontaneous mutations after all.  So much for feeling special!  So, it’s still a mystery.  But if you know me well, you know that I love a good mystery. 
I’ve had a couple of surgeries.  I was fortunate enough to be operated on twice by the “father of craniofacial surgery,” the late Dr. Paul Tessier.  If you’re gonna have your face peeled off and bones popped into place, you kinda want the guy who basically invented the game.  Even if he was from France.  I had my two major surgeries at nine and 18 years old.  When I was nine, the doctors took bone from my skull and gave me cheekbones.  In a total rip-off, I had to get new cheekbones when I was 21 because the first ones reabsorbed.  You pay good money for cheekbones, you expect them to last 20 years or so, right?  Now my cheekbones are made of medical Play-doh or something and, I’m sad to say, I think they’re reabsorbing.  Do I want to go for a three-peat?  Some days, yes.  Most days, no.  The surgery that I had when I was 18 was life-changing…that was my jaw surgery and, in my opinion, was the surgery that made me look really different.  It certainly cut down on the number of people who stared at me out of curiosity.  Do I think about having more surgeries?  Like I said before, sometimes; but those sometimes are happening less often these days.  I think I’ve finally made a little peace with the face that I’ve got.    
Now, because I’m a history geek, I’m gonna give you a little history lesson.  TCS was first described in 1900 by an English surgeon, Dr. Edward Treacher Collins (I’m not sure but I think the name’s a coincidence.)  I believe that I’ve found evidence of TCS prior to 1900 though.  When I was in Bath this past autumn, I ran into this guy.  He clearly manifests some of the characteristics of TCS!  He’s also wearing quite the toga, don’t you think?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


So, just some quick updates –
I went to the cardiologist and, great news, my heart will not be exploding any time soon!  I got a clean bill of health and permission to start training in a couple of weeks for that 5K (Goal 5).
I have expanded the pool of online dating matches from just Catholics and Lutherans.  Because, really, I should give Methodists and Episcopalians a chance.  I am still, however, steering clear of the vegetarians. 
I also spent the extra six bucks to make my profile 100% complete.  And I’m still annoyed about it.
I’m still not a fan of heels but I did browse the shoe department at Nordstrom’s and considered buying a pair of high heel sandals.  And then I remembered I wouldn’t wear them anyway.
Now, a quick gripe –
Three weeks ago, I took my car, The Silver Bullet, in for service…specifically, to fix the squealing sound it made when I put it in reverse and to replace the driver’s side headlight that was burnt out.  They made the repairs (and charged me an arm and a leg!) but guess what?!  Now, the passenger side headlight is burnt out!  Why wouldn’t they have changed both at the same time?  I’m sure they were both put in around the same time and when you use one, you use the other, so it would seem sensible that when one burns out, the other one will burn out shortly thereafter.  Now, I have to make another trip to New Jersey to get my car fixed.  And please, don't ask why I take my car to New Jersey to get it fixed.  Rational people just don't understand.   

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Where's the Falafel?!

A funny thing happened on the way to getting falafel.  It got upstaged by shawarma.  Here’s what happened.  Food Friday found the lunch bunch at Max’s Kosher Café which is apparently the place to get falafel in Maryland suburbia.  We were among, in TopChef’s words, “her people” – so my plan was just to follow her lead because well, I had never been in a kosher restaurant in my life so I felt a little fish out of the waterish.  She ordered the shawarma plate so that’s what I got too.  I didn’t understand that shawarma and falafel were two different menu items and then the line was too long to reorder so I stuck with the shawarma. 
Nevertheless, my shawarma (shaved lamb) was served on a bed of cabbage, Israeli salad, and cauliflower and was topped off with tahini and hummus.  It also came with a falafel ball…which was my first taste of falafel (good) but not exactly worth an entire post.  It was a small ball so I think I’m going to have to go back to Max’s for a whole falafel entrée. 
I have to say…there was a ton of food on the plate!  Deputy Pepper did his best stern dad impersonation and told me that I wasn’t leaving the table until I finished all my food.  But it was kind of hard to take him seriously while he was mopping off his sweaty brow – he likes his shawarma spicy.  I didn’t eat every last bite but I made a sizeable dent and I was allowed to leave the table so that I could get back to the office in a timely manner.  While the shawarma was delicious, my real take away from the meal was the hummus…I really liked it!  And now when people bring chips and hummus to parties, I’ll actually eat it!
So Falafel Friday didn’t really happen but lucky for me, there are a lot more Fridays left in the year!